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  • Royce Webb

Why Curt Flood belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame

According to research by the Baltimore City College Sports Analytics Club, Curt Flood is a strong candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Baltimore City College (B.C.C.) students, participants in The Sports Analytics Club Program (SACP), analyzed Flood’s Major League Baseball career by applying advanced data science techniques developed in baseball since Flood’s retirement in 1971 after 14 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. The B.C.C. Sports Analytics Club found that the three-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion and seven-time Gold Glove winner has a unique résumé that sets him apart from other stars of his era.

The B.C.C. Sports Analytics Club also highlighted Flood’s history-making role as a pioneer in establishing new rights for professional athletes: “What some consider to be Flood’s most impressive and influential feat is his advocacy for Free Agency in MLB. What began in 1969, when he denied a contract trading him to the Philadelphia Phillies, ultimately led to the removal of the Reserve Clause, which has had a massive impact on not only MLB but all modern professional sports.”

But as the B.C.C. Club further noted in documenting Flood’s case for the National Baseball Hall of Fame: “Our club applies advanced performance metrics to demonstrate that Flood was one of the greatest center fielders to ever play the game -- whose superior accomplishments on the field have been overshadowed by his strong advocacy for Players’ Rights. Defensively, Flood is statistically second only to Willie Mays.”

Those metrics include Defensive Runs Above Average, which measures a player’s defensive value relative to the league average. During the 1960s, only Mays topped Flood’s stellar Defensive Runs Above Average. As the Club concluded: “Flood and Mays are arguably the best two defensive center fielders of all time.”

Flood was also an accomplished hitter who compared favorably to other center fielders in his era. The Club found that Flood’s Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) and batting average put him among the upper echelon of 1960s center fielders at the plate. In a pitching-dominant era, he batted better than .300 for six seasons with St. Louis leading up to the 1970 season, which he sat out due to a series of federal lower court and U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding his refusal to be traded to Philadelphia.

In their work with SACP and professional advisors -- including Anton Dahbura, Associate Research Scientist, Johns Hopkins University Department of Computer Science; and Scott Lewis, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Zoomph -- the students employed multiple advanced data science techniques and presented their work in support of Flood’s candidacy to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and its Golden Days Era Committee.

“The SACP Board is confident the Committee will be impressed and persuaded by the data-driven advanced performance metrics demonstrated by the Baltimore City College Club,” said Robert L. Clayton, CEO of The Sports Analytics Club Program, Inc. “Every student deserves an opportunity to experience an exciting, complex and actionable learning environment.”

While during his career he was a star on the field, ultimately Flood is best known for his advocacy for player rights -- and particularly his efforts to have the Reserve Clause abolished in baseball. When MLB players were subsequently awarded free agency, the sport flourished under the “Curt Flood Rule,” also known as the 10/5 rule.

As the B.C.C. Club powerfully argues, Flood’s contributions both on and off the field make an overwhelming case for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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